McCutchen, Trout help scramble expected fantasy rankings
Fantasy stars Tim Lincecum, Evan Longoria have posted their worst-ever years
Andrew McCutchen has played way into top overall player in fantasy baseball
Mark Teixeira's hot stretch should lead to usual second-half surge for Yankees' 1B
They say the toughest thing to do in sports is hit a baseball. Andrew McCutchen, 25, and Mike Trout, 20, the NL and AL batting leaders, made that look like child's play in the first half.
No, the toughest thing in sports might be achieving perfection in fantasy. It is just not possible. This is this writer's mea culpa for being far less than perfect.
We break down some of the good, much of the bad and a lot of ugly from SI.com's preseason preview content as we enjoy the midsummer respite, err, Classic.
The 27-year-old breakouts
Breakouts? More like breakdowns.
It is the belief here the baseball player's prime is age 26-32, with 27 tending to be the breakthrough for fantasy value. Yes, there are some success stories, namely Matt Cain, Adam Jones, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, David Price, Jed Lowrie, Gio Gonzalez and Carlos Gonzalez, but the list looks bad right now. Tim Lincecum, Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria have had the worst seasons of their careers, not their best.
Breakthrough candidates like B.J. Upton, Delmon Young, Mat Gamel and Ian Stewart have been breakdowns, not outs.
Third-year starting pitchers
The third season for a starting pitcher tends to be the time when their arm is equipped for 200-plus innings and the rise to fantasy acedom. Now, this is a category that takes a full year to analyze, but most of our preseason top-10 doesn't have a full year to consider: Brandon Morrow (on the DL), Wade Davis (in the bullpen), Daniel Hudson (out for the year) and Derek Holland (was on the DL). Madison Bumgarner, Matt Harrison, Jordan Zimmermann, Phil Hughes and Bud Norris have had their moments, but, again, this list hasn't come through for fantasy owners.
This category tries to take advantage of the perception of a player being injury-prone and giving you added value for someone that can outperform their draft position. While Josh Hamilton, Stephen Strasburg, Jake Peavy, Johan Santana, Joe Mauer and David Wright have been gems, most of our preseason top-10 hasn't come through better than the masses expected (Hanley Ramirez, Kendrys Morales, Andrew Bailey, Buster Posey and Ryan Howard).
This is one of the categories that has come through. It was said this year stands to rival the greatest rookie years of all time, namely the 2001 Albert Pujols-Ichiro Suzuki class. It has done that and then some with the immediate stardom of Trout, Bryce Harper and Yu Darvish. At least yours truly got something right.
This is another hodge-podge list that has be to deemed more failure than success. The great breakthrough stories of Chris Sale, Mark Trumbo and Kenley Jansen trump the disappointments of Brandon Belt and Dustin Ackley, et al.
You should expect this category to be a mixed bag, but the wild successes of Josh Hamilton, David Wright and Matt Cain (he signed an extension after the column was written) should give the check to the "good" column.
These are wider categories, which combine all those above and adds in players coming off disappointing years or players we have yet to see the best of. On these lists, we find Adam Dunn, Bryan LaHair, Lowrie, Aaron Hill, David Freese, Bumgarner and ... McCutchen! That's enough to consider them a general success.
This category tends to be the least popular in the court of public opinion because no one likes to hear bad things about the players they have high hopes for. As much as it is correct to see Ellsbury here, we balance that with yet another ugly prediction the wheels would come off the Jose Bautista bandwagon. Predicting the latter is getting old, particularly since it never proves true. It also makes our preseason bust picks, well, a bust.
As for the rest of this week's fantasy baseball trends ...
OF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates -- The first-half NL MVP has set the bar high on his career now. He just might be a candidate to pick No. 1 overall in fantasy next year. It has been a quick rise to the elite after a homerless April, too. He has been the best player in baseball since and his recent torrid stretch makes him the toughest guy to get in fantasy right now. Do not sell here, because this just might be a coming of age for this 25-year-old megastar.
SP Tim Lincecum, Giants -- This is the bust of the first-half in all of fantasy. Just when you think he couldn't slip any lower, he goes out and has arguably the two worst starts of his career back-to-back. Consider this a bit of a godsend, if you didn't have a chance to buy low on him. If you did buy low, weather the storm. He still has a dominant stretch in him before this season is over. It is just another cautionary tale of on the dangers of high-priced pitching in fantasy.
1. OF Tyler Colvin, Rockies -- He just might be the perfect fit in Colorado. His homer tear makes him a must-use in all leagues right now. He is available in almost 50 percent of leagues still, too.
2. OF Justin Ruggiano, Marlins -- He went into the break scorching, but there is no guarantee here that will continue coming out of the break. He is more of an NL-only guy.
3. SP Michael Fiers, Brewers -- He has been quite a find if you need strikeouts. The 27-year old might have had his scoreless streak snapped, but he is enjoying a breakthrough and is soaring in ownership with four consecutive quality starts.
4. SP Jose Quintana, White Sox -- After getting beaten up by the Yankees, he rebounded nicely with a great start against the Rangers. This 23-year old looks like a legit sleeper in the short term.
5. 2B Alexi Amarista, Padres -- The diminutive middle infielder has cooled off and shouldn't be counted on as a source of power. He is an NL-only rotisserie guy for his versatility and steals potential.
1. SP Chris Carpenter, Cardinals -- His lost season is complete and his career might be teetering on the brink as well.
2. SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, Red Sox -- At 31, his career might not be over, but his time in Boston might be. He just isn't a viable major-league starter right now. He needs to remake himself like Hideo Nomo did.
3. SP Andrew Cashner, Padres -- So much for that. After that promising first start, Cashner will now miss a month. He at least looks intriguing as a starter long term, though.
4. SP Garrett Richards, Angels -- The wheels fell off this one in a hurry. He should be considered merely an AL-only option if he gets called back up from the minors after the break.
5. C Jesus Montero, Mariners -- The Michael Pineda trade is looking closer again with Montero's struggles of late. Montero still produces enough for a fantasy-worthy catcher, though, and he figures to heat back up in the second half. Don't give up on him.
Most traded: Buy, sell or hold
1. SP Cliff Lee, Phillies -- Now that he finally got his first victory out of the way, Lee should be primed for a huge second half, particularly with the Phillies getting healthier. BUY
2. SP Tim Lincecum, Giants -- One decent start, one very good one and they arguably two of the worst of his career. We have to assume he is not hurt, so still consider buying low if owners are fed up with him all over again. BUY
3. 1B Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Will Middlebrooks should all be back after the break. It should combine to help Gonzalez take off again. Don't sell low now. BUY
4. SP Dan Haren, Angels -- Back injuries are real problematic, but assuming Haren gets back to health, we should assume he will string some good starts together. The injury makes it a shaky time to buy, though. HOLD
5. 1B Mark Teixeira, Yankees -- He is hot of late and famously a second-half player. This is absolutely the time to buy. BUY
Eric Mack writes fantasy for SI.com. You find him on Twitter, where you can mock him, rip him and (doubtful) praise him before asking him for fantasy advice @EricMackFantasy. He reads all the messages there (guaranteed) and takes them very, very personally (not really).